There was a piece on The Guardian’s Comment is Free slot today, hooked on a new study by Professor Timothy Golden, which drew the not-exactly ground-breaking conclusion that working at home isn’t easy.
Also mentioned is a report which stated that only 2.9% of the British working population works from home, and that increasing that figure could save the Treasury a whole stack of cash.
The writer states that this issue affects women disproportionately, given that we breed, and adds that as carer of a vulnerable adult she understands that it’s difficult to “fully concentrate on the needs of others while doing your paid work”.
But surely it’s a Quantum Leap (the likes of which Sam Beckett would be proud) to conclude that those who work from home and have dependents must be juggling the two commitments at any one time? As anyone who has tried to perform that amazing but futile feat of multi-tasking knows; that way madness lies.
Yet this piece would have you believe that working mums are feverishly sticking envelopes and ironing other people’s socks while our crazed dependents run amok.
“There is no question that men working from home are afforded more respect than their female counterparts,” it continues. Seriously? By whom, exactly? I beg to differ. The women I know who work from home are easily among the most talented and respected people I’ve encountered. They’re bright, ballsy and not to be messed with. And I like to count myself among them.
“Women working from home are often thought to be earning “pin money” or only in part-time employment.”
Now technically I’m in part-time employment by virtue of the fact that I have to collect my kids from school at 2pm, and I try not to work when they’re at home. Oh, but the pin money I make often matches my husband’s monthly salary. Which amounts to a fracking lot of pins.
Still, with children to distract us, surely we can’t possibly be getting very much work done? Actually the reverse is true – with the school pick-up (the most impenetrable deadline imaginable) always looming on the horizon and domestic divinity to be squeezed into our busy little lives, we’re pretty much superwomen.
‘Working from home’ used to be a euphemism for skiving off but times have changed – thank the heavens – and mums who work from home pull off slick balancing acts and are masters of time management. And sometimes we even look good, too.
Professor Golden interviewed 316 “tele-workers” for his study – but give me half a day on Twitter and I reckon I could find 317 home-workers who would paint a very different story. But of course, success stories of mums combining careers with child-rearing just aren’t sexy in certain quarters. Some would rather believe that we’re wearing pyjamas on the school run and watching Jeremy Kyle while we stuff envelopes. For pin money. Pfft.
Working at home is not for everyone but if you can’t take the heat then stay the hell away from the corner of the kitchen that this home-worker calls her office. When I had a glitzy PR job my brilliant boss would routinely order me to work at home, knowing that my best work could be relied upon to arrive when I was writing in my living room (yes, in my favourite pyjamas) with fresh air in abundance and music playing instead of phones ringing, free from the stuffiness and distractions of the office.
Above all, I’m frustrated that a non-parent who confesses to not being adept at working from home was selected to write a piece about mums who work from home. If I proposed to write a piece about what it’s like to be child-free I’d wager there’d be uproar.
So, naturally, I suggested that The Guardian should commission me forthwith to write a feisty riposte. I even promised I wouldn’t get distracted by my dependents whilst penning said retort. And of course the payment would come in handy. As pin money.
Disappointingly, they did not respond to my email. But since they’re based in a proper office, where there are presumably no dependents running around to distract anyone from the business of doing real work, I wonder what excuse there can possibly be for not finding time to hit ‘reply’?